Friday, November 05, 2004

This Is How We Overcome

I've been getting all kinds of email from angry people who think fighting is the best way to resolve things. Whether it's politics or church issues or family dynamics, fallen people in a fallen world tend to think the only way to get what they want (which always seems to coincide with what God wants) is to fight, to argue, to use force or pressure.

What I'm about to say comes from Mark Buchanan's book The Holy Wild. He says, "Victory, God-style, almost always looks like a defeat in the making, a catastrophe brewing." What a remarkably different perspective!

Think about the people God used in the Bible: Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, Rahab, Peter. These are not the best and the brightest. These are not a few good men. They do not inspire confidence in us -- not if we are honest. They are deeply flawed, almost comic figures who manage to triumph in the end because of their great God.

In fact, the central character of the Bible -- Jesus himself -- came as "a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain."

I don't know about you, but that image doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me.

Yet, it was this very Lamb who claimed, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." The apostle Paul agrees: "Having disarmed the powers and authorities...[Christ] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them."

As I look at our world, it seems to me that either Jesus' words hold a deeper meaning that few of us understand or they're meaningless altogether.

The Bible tells us that God will overcome at the end of the ages. Everything that's presently upside-down will be turned rightside-up...eventually. But the Bible also tells us that God has triumphed right here, right now. Paul insists that we are more than conquerors.

I'm ready to affirm the first statement; it's the second part that causes us consternation, isn't it?

The Book of Revelation is a mixed bag for most Christians I know. They have bits and pieces of it, but -- on the whole -- they see it shrouded in mystery, incomprehensible.

But it tells us more about this hope we have than any other portion of the Bible. In these pages we see God's final victory. We see God banishing death and demolishing evil. Yet -- even here -- we find that Christ overcomes the world, not by military strength or legislation, not through political parties or lobbyists or protest petitions.

Jesus Christ overcomes by the power of the Cross.

Revelation 12 looks about as dark as it gets. The devil is a raging dragon, wreaking havoc and destruction. But the promise of Scripture is that the children of God defeat this mighty force of evil by "the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." They overcome him because they do not "love their lives so much as to shrink from death."

By following our fearless Lamb into the slaughter, this is how we overcome.